How Do Various Ethnic Cultures Experience Art Therapy? Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2675 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 26  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … Ethnic Cultures' Experience of Art Therapy

The psychological needs of the ethnic child, teen, adult, and senior - from prelinguistic to senescent - have been historically underestimated and under treated. While there are many reasons for the limited offering, access, or availability, therapists are one of the intrinsic factors.

Not knowing how to best work with cultural differences - particularly when the culture is outside the understanding or empathetic realm of experience - the therapist must turn to approaches which meet the broad spectrum of cross-cultural and racial needs. A relatively new psychological tool, art therapy can - without a single word - establish trust, rebuild decimated boundaries, and minimize the prejudices and myths of cultural variations.

Racial perceptions fall on both sides of the cultural fence line. Both cultures - be they white and black, Jew and Gentile, Indian and cowboy - must expose themselves to constructive ways of self-expression and exploration. In the art therapy setting, contributing therapists are freed to examine cultural and ethnic presuppositions in their own lives, experiences, interactions with the ethnically-diverse client, and hidden foundations. Since art therapy liberates, therapists who employ art therapy in ethnic client rehabilitation and support are often considered ethnic activists for the culturally sound promotion of mental health and general well-being.

Background

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Art therapy teaches the truism that something can indeed be created from nothing. During periods of artistic creativity, stress evaporates, focus is honed to the work at hand, and appreciation for the physicality of the art materials can lead to an expression of inner peace, acceptance, and power.

A well-turned piece of clay speaks of being, existing. A beautiful watercolor shouts "I live," "I exist," "I am." While the work itself is gratifying to the creator, the bridge often created while the art is emerging is one of social acceptance, peer approval, recognition of boundary-less talent, and the liberation of that which makes us all the same - our humanness.

Term Paper on How Do Various Ethnic Cultures Experience Art Therapy? Assignment

As art therapy progresses with the ethnic client, it often begins with hesitation, doubt, and even derision. As the journey continues, however, the art stands as a vivid sentinel to the record of a life journal; a record of healing and assimilation into a new home, way of life, and culture.

Art Therapy and Landmarks

As a person grows and absorbs their native culture, certain landmarks inevitably emerge. When this same person is removed from familiar surroundings individuated landmarks are minimized and the sense of self is dealt a crushing blow.

Through art therapy, these landmarks can - with time - be reconstructed. Memory must often be refreshed in order to build these landmarks and this is where the capable therapist can be extremely beneficial to the displaced ethnic client.

By beginning, parts are constructed which eventually create a whole; a whole person, time, cultural memory, and so on. Once accomplished, the client can tell his or her story with the confidence of belonging and pride in their heritage and cultural uniqueness.

As a trusted professional, the art therapist is permitted into the ethnic client's life and witnesses the "phoenix rise from the ashes." As the client continues to grow in the newly adopted culture and continue to place trust in the art therapist's abilities to guide and protect from hidden mines of self-doubts and fears, the confidence to express through the art medium grows and ideally, the ethnic client becomes a contributing part of the new culture.

Art Therapy and the Ethnic Criminal Offender

Art therapy is being used in institutions around the country; hospitals, schools, retirement centers, prisons, and so on. While art benefits any number of psychosocial constructed groups, for the purposes of this study, ethnic offenders are in focus.

Symbolic containment" is a form of offender therapy to which art has been applied. As the ethnic offender is adjusting to the community of inmates and the culture of the social fabric beyond the walls, the loss of identity - typical in the prison setting - often leads to violent demonstrations of the self. When the offender has no creative outlet to discover his ability to grow and correct the errant behavior - within a safe setting - the problems of recidivism and cultural miscommunication can become a social nightmare.

Art therapists are now being hired for prisons all around the country. While society continues to see prison as little more than a form of housing the unruly and stark punishment, early studies are showing that the creative outlets provided through art therapy are opening floodgates of ethnic fears and adjustment issues. The true professional art therapist will see this as the crack in a previously unrevealed armor and drive the opening wider until the ethnic offender can express the fear and frustration of a new culture.

Fresh Forms of Art Therapy

Just as with any other creative outlet, mechanical repetition can be soothing to a point, but often loses its appeal. It is important for the professional art therapist to keep the process new and exciting for everyone participating in the process.

Art therapy can take the form of "sculpting stress, creating a collage self-portrait, drawing to music, creating personal logos, designing a new species of flower, puppetry, mask design, and holiday art." Many therapeutic books available today offer creativity and delight for the ethnic client wishing to find creative outlets for a life which can be frustrating.

Statement of the Problem, Purpose, and Significance

Language is often a barrier of confusion and misunderstanding between cultures, and art takes the easy, non-obtrusive, and non-invasive form of communication that can help therapists exercise more improved culture-sensitive practices, treatments, and awareness.

As this generation experiences levels of security threats and war, ethnic citizens and immigrants require a deep level of catharsis to survive. One art therapy program - the War Child initiative - is working to help children in war-torn countries such as the Caucasus region, Georgia, Negomo Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Ossetia, and Abkhazia.

Rebuilding ethnic links within the towns and communities is a daunting one; neighbors are learning to reconnect with one another following the devastation of war.

Despite the name, art is being used with all ages of ethnic groups in these recovering areas to help rebuild links to normalcy, minimization of emotional trauma, and a communal sharing of spirit and vision among people of all ethnic cultures.

Ethnic groups are realizing the benefits of common projects. For example, mural wall painting can be a communion of like-minded people with a common goal. Often, such projects are not only healing to the participants but enlightening to the surrounding community and culture.

Successful groups have used this art therapy technique to beautify their communities and thereby offer the 'hand of sharing' to those with whom the ethnic client is attempting to identify. Similar to the quilting bee for women and barn raising for men, this sense of community benefits both sides of the situation.

Why bother with cultural differences and anomalies? Culture is defined as the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man's capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Practically speaking, then, culture is more than the bindis precariously perched between deep brown eyes, a recipe containing ingredients one doesn't know exist, or the lovely, but incomprehensible dialect rolling from another's tongue. Culture is a perceived means of survival

Culture then, teaches one how to live - our spiritual rosetta stone, acceptable behavior in differing situations, and how to propagate the culture to ensure its survival. Culture often directs the value systems, norms, relationships, quest for life's meaning, definition of eternity, and ultimate destination. This is often seen in the clinically depressed or hopeless patient; a return to their 'norm' - their traditions - brings a sense of connectedness, a pervasive peace upon arrival.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that art therapy is gaining more and more acceptance and approbation in the realm of cross-cultural adaptation and identity re-creation. When someone of a different cultural heritage is displaced in a new country, the desire to 'fit in' may be best expressed through native art styles and methods.

Expectations and Anticipations Concerning

Results and Their Usefulness expect to learn new and highly useful methods of incorporating art experientials toward other cultures. Anticipating that this understanding will increase my cultural sensitivity to ethnically-specific needs, wants, and biases will be clinically useful because different cultures react to the same issues in unlike ways. People within the same culture often react to the same issues differently leading serious therapists to the understanding that the differences between clients is typically based on their exact situation in life at a precise point in time. Often, however, therapists are not sensitive to the consistent underlying influence cultural traditions have on how people think, perceive, judge, act, react, and understand their life situation at all times. This primary, innate characteristic is - in the therapeutic setting - often an ignored, sometimes merely unnoticed factor.

Research Question

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